Medium length, thick "survival" knives

Cliff Stamp

Oct 5, 1998
Thanks to Tom Lagan I recently got an A1 to try out. I have posted my initial comments here :

Comments on additional advantages of this style of survival knife by those that favor it would be appreciated as it is a blade style whose merits are often disputed and the advantages somewhat unclear.

ood initial review, Cliff. I have been thinking about getting one of these mainly because of the VG-10. I may just get it.
Cobalt; remember, you are on probation. NO KNIFE PURCHASES, REMEMBER??

Cliff; I read your review with interest; frankly, I was surprised that the knife steel performed as well as it did.

After all, VG-10 is basically 440C with half the Manganese removed, and 1.5% Co, and 0.3% vanadium added. That doesn't impress me much at all. Remember that the difference between ATS-34 and BG-42 is the addition of 1.2% vanadium to the ATS-34 composition. Here, you are adding only 10% as much V as BG-42 has.

Look at VG-10 in another light; it is basically BG-42, with 90% of the vanadium removed, 75% of the molybdenum removed, and 1.5% Co added.

These changes seem somewhat difficult to understand; it seems to me that they are trying to make a tool steel, along the traditional lines, with W, V, and Cr carbides present (there is no W in VG-10, but my point is that there is often W in tool steels). Therefore, removing 90% of the V doesn't make much sense to me.

If you want a super tool steel, take a look at this:

T-10 Specs:

C 1.60
Cr 4.00
V 4.90 W 12.00 (that is correct, 12%)
Co 5.00
S 0.06(0.22)

This steel has more goodies than VG-10 ever dreamed of having. Further, the goodies are in higher concentrations. Except for the Cr. But what purpose does the Cr serve? Is VG-10 an attempt at a stainless tool steel? If so, I will take BG-42, thank you.

However, these are the thoughts of a person who deals with these matters on a theoretical level. What really counts is how the blade actually performs. Cliff, any idea on why it performs so well, despite seemingly no compositonal reason for doing so?? Onward through the fog. Walt


On to the VG-10 now. Walt, you are right about BG-42 being better, as it no doubt is, except for maybe in the toughness department, since that has not been proven, yet. But for a cheap production knife, a VG-10 blade is not a bad deal. Also, I think you sometimes need to be carefull, about steel recipies. Sometimes more is not necessarily better. The great thing about all these new steels being made, is that there is more of a chance of producing super steels because of the experimentation. The steel you mentioned looks like some super stuff, but it remains to be seen.
Fällkniven has invested a lot of research in developing a custom treatment process which is what gives the steel its excepional characteristics. The actual treatment process is a trade secret.

As has been stated many times in other threads here and elsewhere good metals can produce poor blades if treatment is not appropriate. Likewise good treatment can produce better than expected knivfe blades. VG-10 is a good steel which is excepionally well treated. The proof is in the testing.

These knives are designed for hard use in critical situations. The initial knife in the line, the F1, is the official survival knife of the Swedish Air Force and therefore, had to meet very stringent demands. They were required to perform well in sub-arctic, hot desert and tropical weather and environmental conditions and these were key factors in the design and strength built into the knives.
The A1, as well as the new S1, is built with the same design and strength.

Also, as was stated earlier by Sal in another thread. The makers are amongst the best if not the best in Seki City.

Hope this helps

Profanity is it, COBALT??

Well, how would like two small boxes per day to show up on your doorstep every day for the next several weeks??

What would wifey dearest do then??

heh heh heh
See, Walther, I am home before wifey all the time, so she never sees the boxes, except for today when my present from Novak's arrived, and she had to sign for it.
... somehow I have this funny feeling that it wasn't UBB's fault why Mrs. Cobalt couldn't register
Cobalt, it is an interesting design. The number one comment I get when I show it around it "very solid".

Walt, 440C is far from a bad steel. 440 series stainless has got a very bad name because of all the 440A stainless knives that are heat treated very poorly. Many custom maker recommend 440C in their large knives over ATS-34, and there are some people that use 440A (Merchin) and thier knives are supposed to perform well at what they are intended to do. Jim March has a couple of their knives, I have not handled them.

VG-10 definately has a tougher edge and has better edge holding than the AUS-8A used by CS and Spyderco which deforms rather easily. Is it better than BG-42 and ATS-34? I don't know as I have nothing similar in geometry to compare it to. It is definately lower in performance in some areas than 1095 in the Ontarios, and I will attempt to quantify just how much by stressing the edge with harder testing which will leave damage to a greater extent which makes it easier to tell the difference.

I have not used it enough to make a definate comment yet - and may very well change this in a few weeks - but I think it has enough slicing ability so that you will not miss a dedicated slicer, and enough chopping ability that you will not miss a dedicated chopper. This is from a pure survival viewpoint not general utility, as the latter changes from person to person.

There is a lot of thought into the design though and it shows. For example it is known that knives of this size cannot chop large wood well (2x4 class). So the tip was made very strong and the butt extended. This means you can either just repeatily jam the tip into the wood making a fault line and then jump on it to crack it, or actually pound the tip deep into the wood by clubbing it on the back which would make it weak enough to crack by hand.

It would be interesting to get some trained survivalists like Ron Hood on here and read his comments. I would really like to know the reasoning behind the designed big blades. Mike/Spark have you discussed him having a forum here? I would assume it would be really well recieved.



The VG-10 on th Fallkniven and Spyderco's perform really well.

The Fallkniven are really high quality knives for a very good price.

About 440, Kellam knives use 440A and they are really really good !

Stop dreaming about numbers. there the design and the heat treatment which are as much as important as the steel. You cannot quantitize everything and play "chemical" specialist without to have ever work in knifemaking once.
IMHO the experience of the knifemaker is much more important than pseudo expert's "chemical analysis" to know if a steel is good or bad or to compare it to another one...

A 440A Kellam Folder can perform much better good than many ATS34 junks...

I have one Myerchin 440A piece that I'm highly impressed with, an A500. I'll bring it Tuesday to Pizza night, for the money ($55 list) it's an excellent piece.

SOG also knows what they're doing with 440A, or so I've heard. Nemo mentioned Kellam as well? Myerchin and SOG went with 440A due to it's marine corrosion resistance and in the process eloquently proved that the heat-treat matters as much or more than the steel.

Jim March
Nemo :

Stop dreaming about numbers. there the design and the heat treatment which are as much as important as the steel. You cannot quantitize everything and play "chemical" specialist without to have ever work in knifemaking once. IMHO the experience of the knifemaker is much more important than pseudo expert's "chemical analysis" to know if a steel is good or bad or to compare it to another one...

While there is a lot of truth to what you say, surely you know that steel types do make a very large difference. For example is there anyone here that would want a large Bowie or a small (1/16") skinner in 420-J2?

While the experience of the knifemaker is of course necessary, they can only work with the materials that they are given. They cannot make a non-stainless steel stainless by good heat-treating, nor can they make a low alloy steel cut like one with a lot of very hard V carbides.

While its obvious that you need skilled knifemakers to produce quality knives, it is necessary to have the best materials. Does anyone actually think that SOG/Kellam or whoever, can get 440A to perform at the level of Talonite (which needs no heat-treat just grinding), INFI, or the CPM-steels?

M, thanks. That not really a full review, though. It was just an intro. I will post up the full review in a few weeks.